Princeton N. Lyman
Special to CNN
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/12/30/Nigeria.violence/t1larg.Nigeria.gi.jpg caption="Soldiers stand guard after December 2008 post-election riots in central Nigeria leave hundreds dead." width=300 height=169]
Americans were alarmed to learn of the attempt to bring down an American airliner over Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. But Nigerians were especially shocked to learn that one of their own, Umar Farouk AbdulMuttalab, was the perpetrator.
Nigerians, from almost every quarter within and throughout the large Nigerian diaspora, were quick to denounce the act and the motive behind it. But they worried, nevertheless, what this said about Nigeria and the world's perception of their country.
Nigerians were right to say that AbdulMuttalab's actions were not reflective of Nigerian Islam or indeed of sub-Saharan Africans in general. Nigeria, like much of West Africa, adheres to a Sufi school of Sunni Islam, with several prominent brotherhoods that define practices and beliefs. It is a moderate, largely tolerant tradition.
For example, in 1999, Nigeria's Islamic leaders and political leaders responded to a popular call for Shariah law in the Muslim northern states. But contrary to some fears, when once instituted, it had little impact on the rest of the largely Christian country and its secular institutions.
Nevertheless, Nigerian Islam is not without its own internal debates, reformist movements and sometimes violent clashes.
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